Digging safety for contractors

Anytime you’re planning to break ground such as excavating a job site, you must click or call BC 1 Call in advance to request the location of underground gas and other utility lines on the property. Doing so could help you avoid safety hazards and costly repairs if you were to damage a buried gas or other utility line.

Three easy steps for safe digging

  1. Request location informationat least three business days before digging. There's no charge for this service and BC 1 Call will notify all member companies that have utilities buried at your job site. Call BC 1 Call at 1-800-474-6886, or click:

    BC 1 Call

  2. Plan where it’s safe to dig— within two to three business days, FortisBC will send you a map and information on where gas lines are buried on the site. If you need help understanding this information, call us at 1-888-822-6555 and we can walk you through the details.
  3. Find the line— use the map provided to mark the location of gas lines on your site. Dig by hand first to expose the gas line if you are working in this area. Don’t use any power equipment within one metre of the gas line.

Excavation safety around natural gas lines

Damaging a gas line when digging can create an unsafe situation for you, your employees and the public. It could also seriously delay your work schedule.

Dig by hand first

WorkSafeBC, Technical Safety BC and the BC Energy Regulator require hand digging to expose buried utility lines before digging with powered excavation equipment. You can review the relevant acts and regulations at bclaws.ca.

Guidelines for locating lines and hand digging

A diagram that shows a worker safely digging around a natural gas line. Hand dig 1 m on either side of the suspected line to expose the pipe. (18-001.31)

Before beginning any excavation or boring, you must locate the buried gas line and hand dig to expose the line. When exposing buried gas lines, the “no mechanized dig zone” refers to the area equal to the diameter of the gas pipe, plus one metre on either side of the gas line’s indicated location extending upwards to the surface.

You must:

  • have gas line information on site
  • identify the location of the gas line and mark the line with paint or stakes until digging is underway
  • hand dig across the boundary limits of the locate area in cuts no more than 0.3 metre deep

You may:

  • use an electronic pipe locator to confirm the approximate location of the gas line
  • use mechanical equipment only to remove surface cover or clear away loosened material down to the limits of the hand dig area before resuming hand digging
  • use hydrovac excavation equipment within the boundary limit
Do not:
  • use mechanical equipment to deepen the excavation past the hand dig area within the boundary limits

If you damage a natural gas line or smell gas

Stop what you’re doing, shut off any power tools or machinery and call the FortisBC Emergency Line at 1-800-663-9911 (24 hours) or 911 so we can inspect or repair the damage.

Contractors are responsible for notifying FortisBC and WorkSafeBC of damage to natural gas lines. We may seek to recover all associated costs from any person or organization who damages an underground gas line.

Damage prevention investigators

When one of our natural gas lines is damaged, we send a crew out immediately to repair it. We may also send one of our damage prevention investigators to determine how and why the gas line was damaged, and to educate the person or company involved so they don’t make the same mistakes again.

Read our blog post where the investigators share 7 damaging myths about digging safety and what happens after you hit a natural gas line.

Watch our video to learn more about safety on excavation sites

Safety resources to download, print and share

Training opportunities

To promote safe digging practices, we offer training opportunities for contractors, municipal workers and other professionals working near underground utility lines. Contact Tanya Kowalenko to learn more.